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How May Day Is Celebrated With Food In Europe

How May Day Is Celebrated With Food In Europe

european countires celebrating may day

It’s the start of a new month but not just any month, it’s May which means May Day is here along with a bank holiday weekend! We think anyone would say that having an extra day on your weekend is a cause for celebration, but do you actually know what the May Day celebrations are all about? May Day is a celebration of coming in to a new season, summer, and if you’re familiar with the Chef’s Compliments blogs you’ll know we also love to welcome in a new season and all the seasonal produce it brings!

You may know that in Britain the celebration of May Day involves the 3 Ms; Morris dancing, the May Queen and of course the May Pole! Although there’s not really any specific food made to go along with this celebration in Britain, we don’t believe any party is complete without some edible accompaniment! So we’re looking to our European neighbours to find out the foods they have to welcome in the new season on May Day.


If you pop across the channel to France on May Day you can expect to be offered a warm glass of milk straight from a cow! Now we know this tradition may be making you thankful that we have no traditional May Day foods in Britain, as milk direct from the cow’s udder isn’t the most enticing prospect!

There’s more to France’s celebrations on the first of May than unpasteurised milk though! The French call this holiday ‘La Fête du Travail’, in plain English that’s Labour Day, so not only is it a sign for the French that summer is on its way, but it’s also a celebration of worker’s rights.


If you travel a little further, you’ll find that in Germany they make hearts out of rice, which seems fitting as in British tradition May Day is also seen to mark a time of love and romance. Don’t get too excited about these rice hearts though, as they’re not edible and are just made as decorations!


Unlike Germany with its non-edible hearts, Finland actually has a number of culinary delights on offer on May the first. If you have a sweet tooth then perhaps you should spend next May Day in Finland.

The first sweet treat the Finnish have to offer is something called funnel cake. A funnel cake is probably unlike any cake you’ve seen before. To make it, the batter is put into a piping bag and then piped in a swirling motion to create a ‘round’ cake which is then fried in a pan.

Lemon is a key ingredient in the funnel cake and is also used in another sugary delight on May Day in Finland, that being in liquid form as the drink Sima. Sima is a fermented lemon drink which is also suitable for children as it’s sweetened with honey.


Last, but not least, it’s time to take a trip to Greece where Vasilopita cake is on the menu. This cake is not only brought out on May Day, as Greeks love it on other celebratory occasions, such as welcoming in the New Year. So what’s all the hype about?

Vasilopita is a coffee cake which is enjoyed as part of the first meal of the day, breakfast. The Vasilopita has a distinguished look, it’s tiered, with a small round cake on top of a large round cake and can be flavoured with anise.

There is a tradition as to how to eat the Vasilopita cake correctly and this involves each member of the family having their share in an order based on age. The youngest person is the first person to have their bit of the cake, followed by the second youngest, then the third youngest and we think you know where we’re going with this!

Whether you call it May Day or Labour Day, the beginning of May calls for celebrations across Europe in the form of consuming many culinary delights! After reading about the delicious dishes enjoyed in France, Germany, Finland and Greece, you may be feeling a little left out that we don’t have our own traditional foods at this time of year. Well not to worry as when it comes to food and celebrating, Chef’s Compliments has you covered! Check out our spring summer menu and organise a dinner party with us to celebrate the new season!

Another way to celebrate the coming of the summer is to organise a BBQ and you can read more about having a BBQ with Chef’s Compliments, here. Or you may have been inspired to create your own May Day dishes based on the examples from our European neighbours and if so, why not book private cooking lessons with us to learn how to make some of the dishes mentioned here.

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